HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Stargate Universe: SG-U 1.5

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Jul 28, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Stargate Universe: SG-U 1.5 (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Andy Mikita et al

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2010
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
    Running Time: 438 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish


    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.99



    Release Date: July 27, 2010

    Review Date: July 28, 2010



    The Series

    3/5



    The second half of the first season of Stargate Universe proved itself no better or worse than the original ten installments. The characters are mostly grating and unlikable, the stories are slow paced and not always engaging, and the production values are only average. There’s a fine cast at work, but their characters are usually so morose or guarded that identifying with them is sometimes a trying experience. There have been some entertaining and thought-provoking episodes to be sure, but the series still has not reached a point where it’s must-see TV.



    For the benefit of those late coming to the party (desultory as it often is), here’s the set-up: a group of civilians, military personnel, and scientific researchers trying to evade an alien attack make a desperate escape through a Stargate that lands them aboard an ancient, unmanned space ship, the Destiny. The ship, created thousands of years ago as a way to place Stargates throughout the universe, is on an unstoppable, pre-determined course billions of light years from Earth. With no way to alter the ship from its current autopilot and with much of the ship a complete mystery to them, the group must grudgingly continue on the ship’s unknown mission with the hope that somehow someone can eventually dial the Stargate back to Earth coordinates. The cast basically divides up into military personnel and civilian scientists, and the unease and mistrust that each side has for the other fuels many of the series’ stories.



    Heading the military operations is Col. Everett Young (Louis Ferreira), a tough, demanding commander. His second in command is the series’ charm boy, 1st Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith) with the unamused, hot-tempered Master Sgt. Ronald Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) often right in the thick of things. The science end of the equation is helmed by the eternally cranky and dyspeptic Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle). He’s assisted by unemployed science nerd and video gamer Eli Wallace (David Blue). Among the civilians is the daughter of a U.S. senator, Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque) and head of human resources Camile Wray (Ming-Na). No doctor is on board the Destiny, but 1st Lt. Tamara Johansen (Alaina Huffman) is a military medic who serves the needs of the crew more than adequately in these first season episodes. She also reveals several episodes in that she’s pregnant, another ongoing complication.



    Of the ten episodes in this second half of the season, the best ones have taken reliable formulas, added a bit of ambiguity, and made them seem like fresh ideas. “Faith” has eleven of the crew walking onto an Earth-like planet, an almost paradise with clean air and water, fruit growing in abundance, and peaceful quiet after the stress and conflict onboard the ship. Many wish to stay, obviously over the objections of Colonel Young. But is the planet a Venus flytrap placed there to lure unsuspecting victims? Was it created as a haven for the tired and lost? The answers aren’t forthcoming, and the ending is unsatisfactory, but for two-thirds of the episode, the show had a real winner. “Pain” finds several members of the crew experiencing hallucinations that feed on their senses of guilt, loss, and anger. Again, the story goes out of control by the end, but much of the episode is harrowing and very well done. “Human” and “Sabotage” give us backstories on Dr. Rush (which will remind the viewer of A Beautiful Mind) and Sgt. Greer, but neither is very effective. The two-part season finale is, of course, tediously loaded with cliffhangers for every major character as the cold-blooded Lucian Alliance takes over the Destiny.



    Here are the ten episodes for the second half of season one. The names in parentheses refer to the commentators for that episode:



    1 – Space (director Andy Mikita, effects supervisor Mark Savela, writer Louis Mallozzi)


    2 – Divided (Elyse Levesque, Louis Ferreira, Julie Benson)


    3 – Faith (Patrick Gilmore, Alaina Huffman, Brian J. Smith)


    4 – Human (creator Robert Cooper, DP Michael Blundell)


    5 – Lost (Brian J. Smith, Peter Kelamis, Jamil Walker Smith, Patrick Gilmore)


    6 – Sabotage (Elyse Levesque, Louis Ferreira, Julie Benson)


    7 – Pain (Brian J. Smith, Patrick Gilmore)


    8 – Subversion (Brian J. Smith, Patrick Gilmore, Alaina Huffman, Jamil Walker Smith)


    9 – Incursion, Part 1 (Elyse Levesque, Alaina Huffman)


    10 – Incursion, Part 2 (Elyse Levesque, Alaina Huffman)



    Video Quality

    4/5



    The program’s 1.78:1 television aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Thought not possessing optimum sharpness, the images are crisp and imminently watchable only occasionally sporting soft, undefined detail. The show doesn’t usually boast striking color saturation unless the characters find themselves somewhere other than on the Destiny. At those times when an alien planet is landed on, colors are usually rich and impressive. Flesh tones are always nicely rendered. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5



    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very entertaining and nicely delivered on a television series budget. The LFE channel gets a solid workout on most episodes with a constant low rumbling bass setting the uneasy mood of the series. There aren’t enough split surround effects to give the audio a reference quality score, but the music is certainly immersive and beautifully recorded. Dialogue is also cleanly delivered in the center channel.



    Special Features

    4/5



    Each episode contains an audio commentary. The newness of doing commentaries has worn off somewhat with the cast-based talks, and there is much less raucous laughing and joshing around than in the last set. In fact, for several of the actors, they’re seeing the episode for the first time and seem more interested in watching than in discussing anything pertinent. The episodes with crew member commentaries, as before, turn out to be much more interesting for fans of the show.



    All bonus material is presented in 1080p.



    Disc One



    “David Blue: An Interview with the Creators of SGUis just what it says: the actor asking questions of Brad Wright and Robert Cooper who created the show. It runs 9 ¼ minutes.



    “Designing a New Race: Space Aliens” has special effects coordinator Mark Savela describing how the show wanted the aliens to appear in the premiere of the second half of the season. It runs 2 ¼ minutes.



    “Tanked! Elyse Levesque Goes for a Swim” is a 2 ½-minute featurette on the actress’ introduction to scuba diving for the episode “Space.”



    “Chatting with the Cast: Peter Kelamis” has the actor explaining his great good fortune of being hired for a three episode guest star role which has turned into a regular gig for him. It lasts 2 ¼ minutes.



    There are four Kino Video Diaries, scripted and improvised moments with the actors in character talking among themselves or to the Kino video sphere. These are much lighter in tone than the episodes themselves (perhaps a dose of this kind of humor might brighten the show up considerably). They may be viewed separately or in one 10-minute bunch.



    Disc Two



    “Brian J. Smith: An Interview with the Creators of SGUis just what it says: the actor asking questions about the conception of his character to Brad Wright and Robert Cooper who created the show. It runs 11 minutes.



    “The Destiny of General O’Neill” is a 2-minute throwaway with Richard Dean Anderson describing his pride over the growth of the franchise and his pleasure of handing over the reins to another group of actors.



    “A Day in the Life of Louis Ferreira” finds the actor giving viewers a tour of the sets, the soundstage, the lot, and his dressing room during a typical day of shooting. It runs for 7 ¼ minutes.



    “Chatting with the Cast: Julia Benson” finds another actor pleased to be a part of the show in a 2 ¼ minute vignette.



    “Out for a Spacewalk with Jamil Walker Smith” has the actor describing his costume and the work which went into his space walk for the season premiere. It runs 2 ¼ minutes.



    “Finding Destiny: A Tour of the Destiny Set with Chris Beach” has the show’s art director showing us how the set operates with multiple uses for many of the sets, altered by shifting flats or pull down doors. It runs for 5 ¼ minutes.



    There are three Kino Video Diaries, again lighter in tone as the actors improvise situations while on camera. They may be viewed separately or in one 8-minute grouping.



    Disc Three



    “Alaina Huffman: An Interview with the Creators of SGU has the actress talking about their writing her real-life pregnancy into the season’s scripts and overall reaction to the show thus far (which has been mixed). It runs for 10 minutes.



    “Chatting with the Cast: Jennifer Spence” is 2 ¼ minutes with the actress who is thrilled to be a part of the show.



    “A Behind the Scenes Look at ‘Incursion’” spends 6 ¼ minutes summarizing the basic plot behind the two-part season finale with interviews featuring several of the core cast members.



    “Two-for-One: Behind the ‘Incursion’ Double Ratchet Stunt” shows behind-the-scenes work on some tumbling stunts used when the ship is invaded by the Lucian Alliance. The stunt coordinator speaks for 2 ¼ minutes while some dry runs are staged before the scene is shot.



    “Chatting with the Cast: Patrick Gilmore” finds the actor delighted to finally be a part of the primary cast of a Stargate series after jobbing in as a day player on the other two incarnations of the franchise. This runs for 2 ¼ minutes.



    There is one Kino Video Dairy entry which lasts 2 minutes and features actress Julia Benson in character describing some experiences from the season’s second half.



    “SGU: Survival Instinct Game” is a video-based role playing game trying to avoid mine fields and traps on an alien planet using the colored buttons on the remote.



    The set also came with a fold out cardboard slipcase to house both season one Blu-ray sets of the series.



    Inside the package is a $10 rebate coupon good for buying any previous season of Stargate: Atlantis or Stargate SG-1.



    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)



    Stargate Universe has a promising foundation for a reasonably entertaining science fiction series. The tortured, tormented characters and ever-increasing conflicts between characters, however, seem a bit heavy-handed to the casual viewer, but the infusion of some lighter material to mix with the overemphasis on angst might help make the series a must-see program for its second season. The Blu-ray features loads of bonus material for fans and very good audio and video transfers.





    Matt Hough


    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    Is it me, or do the aliens look like Dr. Nefarious from the Ratchet & Clank video game series?
     

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